The Real Deal on Reality TV

Jersey-Shore-Season-3-Cast-Wallpaper-jersey-shore-24353695-1600-1200For many American families, TV plays a large role in their daily lives. Children watch cartoons after school or early on Sunday mornings, adults who are home during the day watch soap operas and game shows, and many families gather around the television at the end of the night to watch a specific program together.

According to weirdfacts.com, 99 percent of all households in the United States possess at least one television.

In recent times, reality television shows have been growing more and more popular. The number of these programs that make it on the air continues to rise as the number of people who enjoy these types of shows also increases. But how much reality is actually shown in a program that is considered to be “reality” television?

Donna Dolphin, a communication professor at the University, explained, “The only actual reality television is called ‘news.’” In other words, the shows that may be advertised as being real life portrayals of the lives of everyday men and women are not completely real.

“The genre that we call reality TV is a semi-scripted form of improvisational narrative drama,” Dolphin further adds. “It is formulaic and episodic.” If that is the case, the concept of a genuine “reality” television show ever existing, or having ever been in existence, is completely lost.

To reinforce Dolphin’s point, Robert Scott, a specialty professor in the communication department, admitted, “I have a friend who is a camera operator for several reality TV productions and it is not uncommon for a producer to instruct him to interact with participants, sometimes fabricating situations for dramatic effect.”

According to Scott, the only way to ensure that realty is actually being presented on reality TV is to run hidden cameras that the audience has unlimited 24 hour access to. “I hope we never reach that point,” he said.

But regardless of how illegitimate these reality shows may be, people continue to watch them. “I think people like watching reality TV because it’s an escape from their own reality of work and school. Also, the people that are on shows like “Jersey Shore” are all crazy and really entertaining,” said Scott.

Sophomore Brianna Mahoney, said, “It is not crazy to say that shows such as ‘Duck Dynasty’ and ‘The Real Housewives’ are the guilty pleasures of many people, and this is mostly because the lives of the main characters differ so greatly from our own.”

People who lead normal lives are intrigued by the extravagant, or not so extravagant ways in which those on television live. These shows provide an inside look at families from across the country that participate in such a lifestyle.

Sophomore Raquel Warehime, added, “People like watching reality TV because they live their lives through the characters on the show.” It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced and drama-filled lives of those who have their own television shows, especially when the activities that normal, everyday American men and women partake in seem so dull in comparison.

But besides the typical reality shows such as “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” or “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” there are others that fall under the category of reality TV that have a different effect on viewers.

Mahoney said, “On more serious shows like ‘The Bachelor’ or ‘Dancing With The Stars’ it’s fun to root for your favorites.”

Dolphin also added that shows like “Survivorman” or “Dual Survival” break the mold of what reality TV is usually like. “I don’t consider these reality shows. I think of them more as adventure documentaries,” Dolphin said.

It is fairly obvious that reality television comes in many different forms. There are some shows that document the daily lives of a particular person or group of people, game shows that involve some sort of competition and shows that document a person’s ability to survive in extreme circumstances. But regardless of which form it takes, it seems that reality television is among the highest forms of entertainment in our society.

Many people are aware of the fact that not every aspect of this particular genre is completely genuine, but that usually does not stop them from watching it anyway. Reality television serves as an escape for many people, and the pure entertainment factor associated with almost all shows that are considered “reality TV” certainly increases audience satisfaction as well.

 “What I’ve learned is that the draw is different for each viewer,” Scott explained. Some people may enjoy the more typical kinds of reality shows while others may prefer the ones that revolve around competition or a particular game. Regardless, there is always some sort of twist on the reality displayed to the viewers.

If television shows placed under the reality genre were always completely accurate descriptions of real life, nowhere near as many people would tune in every week to watch.

However, according to Dolphin, “I do think it is important for all of us to be literate about media and understand what we consume.” Everyone can agree that reality television is great, but it is very important to be able to distinguish the difference between actual reality and what is depicted on television because most of the time they are completely different. But even though this specific genre of television may be deceiving at times, as long as the viewers are entertained and not influenced by anything they see, reality TV will continue to be one of our society’s most popular forms of entertainment.

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